Decorating your first apartment? Here’s everything you need to know.
Buying furniture for a first apartment or home can feel stressful because it involves a great amount of decision-making. It’s also a challenge because there are so many major purchases to make, often with a budget in mind. And while it’s completely possible to create a stylish space within most reasonable budgets, the most important thing to consider is what pieces of furniture are really worth spending money on. Should you splurge on the side table but scrimp on the sofa? Are expensive mattresses truly worth the price? Will a cheap bed frame fall apart? The answers might be surprising. Here’s everything to know about buying furniture for your first home.
Don’t click “add to cart” or even start shopping before you have an accurate measurement of the space. If you rent, ask the property manager for a floor plan with dimensions. But, if that isn’t available, measure the space yourself. Buy a high-quality tape measure and write everything down. Draw out a floorplan on your own, especially if the shape of the room is unique.
This is essential to make sure the furniture will not only fit, but will be the right size. After all, a sofa might physically fit in the living room, but if it takes up eighty percent of the space, it’s not the right piece. On the other hand, it’s essential to consider whether or not there will be enough seating for everyone to fit comfortably or for one person to lie down.
Dining tables are another challenge. Would a square or round table look best? Is it possible to pull off an irregular-shaped table for a bolder look? Do you even need a dining table if you’re single and eating dinner on the sofa every night? This is where the practical part of interior design comes in.
To see how everything will flow together, outline the dimensions of the future on the floor with Scotch Blue Original Painter’s Tape. This is the best way to get an accurate visual of what the layout and flow will be like.
Blue painter’s tape is a great tool for planning rooms.
This type of tape is easily removed and won’t ruin wood floors or carpeting. Using it will also prevent mistakes and buyer’s remorse as well as ensure you will have enough space to move around in the room.
If your mom has been saving that old coffee table, sofa, or desk for you, really consider whether it is worth bringing. It may be best to politely decline, even if it feels uncomfortable.
The problem with accepting furniture that’s dated-looking or simply not your style, is that you’ll ultimately end up trying to decorate around it.
There’s no way to may this work in a modern or mid century modern home.
For example, while that traditional flower print sofa might be in perfectly good condition, it’s simply not going to work if you’ve had your heart set on mid century modern style.
However, there are some exceptions to these rules. If you’re gifted a neutral piece of furniture like a sofa or dining chairs, even if you aren’t completely in love, those on limited budgets should consider finding a way to make it work. Can you add or change a slipcover? Consider how you can accessorize. New pillows and a throw have a larger design impact than many people think.
Another exception to this rule is wood furniture. Is it possible to refinish or repaint a piece? If you aren’t good at DIY, paying someone else to do this for you may be less expensive than buying something new.
As a general rule of thumb, if you’re buying furniture for your first apartment, aim to buy pieces you want to keep for approximately five years. This means considering what is and what isn’t worth spending money on. Items that get the most wear and tear such as sofas, mattresses (a good night’s sleep is always worth it) and dressers are worth allocating a higher portion of your budget to. That’s because these pieces need to be somewhat durable.
However, there are some pieces that you can avoid overpaying for. Nightstands are a great example of this. They also tend to be marked up because retailers know that consumers must buy two. Opt for small side tables instead. While you won’t have drawers, it’s a very design-forward look.
Floating shelves are another stylish swap for nightstands and perfect for smaller rooms. West Elm currently has shelves for less than $50. Choose a floating shelf with enough space for a bottle of water, a phone, and perhaps a book or two.
Then consider adding a sconce instead of using a lamp. If you own your home, have the have sconces hardwired. Renters should consider plug-and-play sconces instead. The Novogratz is a great place to shop for these accessories.
This bed frame from Wayfair is big in style but very low in price.
Bed frames are something that are surprisingly easy to scrimp on. While many people are concerned about durability, even inexpensive bed frames can be durable and look more expensive than the price tag would have you believe. Wayfair and sister site, Joss and Main have lots of options in this category. Just make sure to read the reviews.
If you’re buying a lot of new furniture, it’s smart to wait for a sale or see if any kind of discount is available. According to RetailMeNot, discounts in the furniture category average approximately seventeen percent off. This can be a major savings for anyone who is furnishing an entire home.
In 2020, the best discounts were offered in May, September, and October, aligning to holidays such as Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Prime Day. It is likely there will be similar sales this year.
In terms of promotion types, most furniture retailers run flat-discount sales, such as “up to 70 percent off” in a particular category, but RetailMeNot also recommends using loyalty codes and signing up for emails to save money.
There are several ways to buy used furniture. One way that’s often overlooked is floor models. Many major furniture stores sell off their floor models when an item, color, or style is being discontinued, including more upscale stores like Crate and Barrel. These products are normally in good condition with a little bit of wear and tear. Inventory will always vary so it’s best to ask someone working at the store if they know when the floor models will become available.
There’s also a plethora of used pieces available from places like Facebook Marketplace and NextDoor. The long-established Craigslist and newer apps like OfferUp are other options.
While looking for the perfect sofa, you might encounter the area rug of your dreams, but don’t buy it just yet. Here’s the problem with accessorizing first— you will likely end up trying to revolve your entire décor scheme around an accessory of two. It ultimately makes the process more difficult. Instead, save the link to your favorites or add it to a Pinterest board.
In terms of accessories, it’s important not to forget things like the aforementioned area rug, lamps, picture frames, art, and other décor. This isn’t a category where you should overspend. Try going to your local Homegoods. This chain is a virtual treasure trove for affordable accessories.
Florida, Stuart, HomeGoods store display. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via … [+]
But if you’d rather shop exclusively online, Wayfair has a very large selection of decor that won’t break the bank.
Wayfair has lots of great accessories, like the acrylic tray.
Remember, you don’t have to buy every pillow, throw, and storage box by your move-in date. Take your time when it comes to choosing accessories. Most of all, enjoy the process.
I am a writer, podcaster, and comedic performer, but more so, an aspiring Eames chair owner. Originally from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I currently live in the